The Franco Mercieca saga is drawing comparisons to when Censu Tabone, then a leading ophthalmologist at a time when they were fewer in number, had been prohibited by then Prime Minister George Borg Olivier to practice his profession, even on a voluntary basis.
Dr Tabone had been appointed Minister of Labour, Employment, Social Welfare and Immigration in 1966, at the age of 53.
At the time, he was one of three ophthalmic surgeons, and one of two who served at the government hospital. Dr Tabone was the only one who served the Gozitan community.
On being made minister, he pleaded with the then Prime Minister George Borg Olivier to be allowed to visit Gozo in his free time on Sundays to serve the Gozitan community for free. But Dr Borg Olivier had denied his permission.
For five years until 1971 – when the Nationalist Party lost the election – Dr Tabone did not practice his profession. When, in 1987, he was elected again and appointed Foreign Affairs Minister and later President of the Republic, he again stopped practicing.
Parliamentary secretary Franco Mercieca has been allowed to continue his practice as an eye surgeon although this goes against the ministerial code of ethics. He has been granted a waiver by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Today, there are many more eye surgeons working in both the public and private sector.